Contractor to replace trees left uncared for 

Step 1: Plant trees. Step 2: Water them regularly. Step 3: Watch them grow.

A city contractor missed the second step of that process on dozens of street trees in the Richmond district, causing about 60 trees to die.

Fortunately for The City, the trees were still under warranty, and the contractor has agreed to replace the trees — and to water their replacements, Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.

Planting more trees along streets was one of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s stated goals when he came into office. In 2004, he pledged to plant 25,000 trees in San Francisco, and launched a planting program called Trees for Tomorrow in 2005.

In March, Newsom announced The City had exceeded that pledge by planting a total of 26,408 trees.

To complete all that planting, The City contracted with several companies, Falvey said. The contractors were required to plant the trees and maintain them for three years, until the trees were well-established and could survive and grow without regular watering.

DPW hired landscaping company Cleary Brothers to plant some of the 1,300 trees slated for the Richmond district, and the contractor planted the trees that later died between February and March 2008, Falvey said.

DPW began receiving community complaints about the dying trees and inspections showed they were distressed from lack of water. The company agreed to replace the trees at their own cost.

Falvey said the problem was an isolated incident.

“We routinely inspect all the trees, and these are the ones that came up on our radar,” she said. “We don’t think it’s a widespread problem.”

Cleary Brothers did not return a call for comment.

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